Cutting The Taliban’s Opium Lifeline

Sad news came yesterday for six American families, following a suicide bombing attack in Afghanistan that killed six US soldiers. The pain of each family will be multiplied by the fact that their loved ones died mere weeks from the holidays. Americans with sons and daughters enlisted in the armed forces, and stationed in Afghanistan, are probably looking each day in the media for signs of hope that the US and its NATO allies can find a way to break the Taliban insurgency’s back – and speed up the safe return of all US soldiers. This being so close Christmas, one is inclined to optimism in all things – even regarding the struggle to prevent Afghanistan from falling back under Taliban rule. It is hard to find much to be optimistic about in Afghanistan, but there is one bright spot that unfortunately the MSM does not highlight often, even though it would be of great interest to all military families. The bright spot I am referring to concerns the chances for NATO to land a knock-out punch against the Taliban by hitting the insurgency in its bank account, so to speak. What I mean here is that the Taliban insurgency owes its longevity to one thing – the fact that Afghanistan produces 90 per cent of the world’s opium. The Taliban has no factories to make small arms. It has no significant industrial base to make ammunition. The only way the Taliban can buy the weapons, ammunition, improvised explosive device parts, etc. that its fighters use to attack the Afghan government and NATO is through the money its leadership skims off the trafficking of opium. The Taliban needs that dirty opium money to survive. If the Afghan opium traffic could be significantly disrupted, the Taliban would lose its primary source of income – and the money it needs to resupply its stocks of weapons. So, if one is looking for reasons to be optimistic that the Taliban’s opium lifeline can be severed, there are a few. Last week, Russia, Pakistan and Tajikistan announced that they would work more closely with Afghanistan’s government to frustrate opium trafficking into Central Asia by Afghanistan’s Taliban-allied drug barons. Each of those countries shares a border with Afghanistan, and to the degree they can cooperate against the opium traffic, that will help tighten the noose around the drug barons. Russia has been loudly complaining for some time that NATO isn’t doing enough to fight the Afghan opium traffic. There are signs that is changing. For example, Scotland’s Daily Record newspaper has a story about a Scottish military unit in Afghanistan seizing a Taliban opium cache that would have brought in about $8 million — if it had made it to drug pushers in Western countries. That’s money the Taliban won’t get to use to resupply itself. There’s more to do, of course. The struggle against Afghan opium needs to be widened to include investigations into how the profits from the sale of opium are funneled back to the Taliban, so that opium-trafficking-linked bank accounts can be seized, shell companies close down and drug kingpins brought up on charges. If this can be done, then there are good grounds to believe that 2011 could be the year that the Taliban’s opium lifeline is decisively cut. ((13 DEC 2010))




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